Sharon Nixon, the founder of the Fashion Umbrella Foundation, has moved from Baltimore Fashion Week to the fashion capitol that is New York Fashion Week(NYFW)—and she took along debuting designers who have previously presented their collections through her grassroots organization.
Baltimore Fashion Week launched designer’s collections locally and wrapped up its ninth annual three-day production on Aug. 15, but for Nixon there was no time to waste. New York Fashion Week officially began on Sept. 8 and continued through Sept. 15.
Designer Brandi Lewis and her daughter Marley Love. (Courtesy photo)
Nixon’s inaugural event happened on Sept. 9, at the Holiday Inn in Midtown Manhattan on West 57th street.
“When you come to NYFW it’s a whole different flavor, so you have to bring it,” said Nixon. “There is no space for error here. It was a huge undertaking especially for the designers because I was on them like white on rice. You would’ve thought that I was the one creating the clothes.”
Given Nixon’s substantial success in Baltimore, runway shows in New York might have been a foregone conclusion. But this was the designer’s first time at New York Fashion Week—and it won’t be her last.
Nixon saw her name on the New York Fashion Week Calendar, but said she didn’t know the importance of it until she saw other major designers on the same calendar. “That escalated a lot on my part on a whole other level,” she said.
Usually, Nixon partners with cosmetology students from Aveda Institute located in Washington, D.C. But to remain cost-efficient and easily accessible, New York Institute of Beauty discovered her Fashion Umbrella Foundation and wanted to be on board by helping the designers beautify their models looks for their collections.
“It was an absolute honor to work with students who can create the looks in the time that they did,” said Nixon. “As many shows that I’ve done, I have never ever in all the years that I’ve been doing production been in an experience like this ever before. It was such an honor to have that help, especially for them to reach out to me.”
Nixon chose her designers carefully. To unveil her production during New York Fashion Week she had to take not only herself and her Fashion Umbrella Foundation team seriously, but the designers had to be ready as well.
“New York Fashion Week is for individuals who take their craft as a business, not as a hobby,” said Nixon.
The designers she selected were Baltimore’s Brandi Lewis, Margaret Sanzo from Denver and Parisa Kay from Indianapolis. Each designer previously revealed their collections during Baltimore Fashion Week; Lewis displayed her first collection in 2009, Sanzo in 2015 and Kay at this year’s event.
The designers all had their own distinct looks for their collections. Lewis grew up in Baltimore City and said the inspiration she felt through her collection was a gift from God.
“It’s been such a process to get to this point,” said Lewis. “I feel like when things are tough you got to hold on because it means a breakthrough is coming.”
The theme of Lewis’s collection line was “Syeko,” which she said meant to “think outside of the box.”
“I always freestyle my work I never really think about it,” said Lewis. “I may have an idea, but most of the time I’m free-styling my work which is definitely from God.”
Her collection was the last to be presented. It featured chunky embellishments, from her denim jackets to bottom pieces. She used plenty of vibrant colors, noting that her collections are never about trends but about style, and that statement looks are always in rotation.
“I’m in love with brooches, embellishments, customizing, making personal pieces for women to feel awesome and pretty,” Lewis said.
After the show, while attendees were taking photos and chatting with guests, Lewis was backstage selling select pieces from her new line.
“I just want to keep giving people the unexpected,” said Lewis. “It’s about me touching people…it’s deeper than me being a designer and getting me noticed. It’s about me helping people along the way.”
Proceeds from the event’s ticket sales will go toward the Fashion Umbrella Foundation’s “Back-To-School: Refresh” program, which caters to students in grades kindergarten through sixth grade. In February, Nixon will offer two schools in Baltimore City with new school supplies for the remaining year.